Travel

Rising Dragon

Breathing fire into Danang's eating & drinking scene

Danang has long been overlooked as a destination in Vietnam. It’s Hoi An that has got all the attention. Until now.

Something is clearly happening here

Although it’s still seen by many as just the nearest airport to Hoi An – the darling of Vietnam’s tourism industry – Danang is slowly forcing people to stop in for a while and take a look.

Something is clearly happening here.

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In 2011, the upgrade of Danang International Airport, one of the most conveniently located airports in Southeast Asia, was completed, turning it from what felt like a regional “aerodrome” into something more in-line with a facility capable of handling a rapidly increasing number of international arrivals.

By 2020, it’s expected Vietnam’s third busiest airport will handle 13 million passengers a year. Growth has been staggering. In 2012, just over 3 million passengers went through the airport. By 2016, almost 9 million.

Danang has also become a sports event destination with the Danang Marathon and IRONMAN 70.3 Vietnam held here each year.

Licking our lips

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Burger Republic

It comes as no surprise then, that Danang’s food and beverage scene has begun to develop, too. Like the rest of the country, central Vietnam has always had great food, think cau lao in Hoi An, bun bo in Hue and Danang’s delicious mi quang.

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Danang’s own – mi quang

It’s the emergence of Western-style cafes, restaurants and hotels that have caught our attention in recent years

But it’s the emergence of Western-style cafes, restaurants and hotels that have caught our attention in recent years. While the brilliant Waterfront Restaurant & Bar and the vibrant Luna Pub continue to knock us out with their quality after all these years, more recent entrants to the scene, like Dirty Fingers with its rockabilly feel and Tex-Mex offerings, along with the more subdued but equally impressive Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge Bar, give us plenty of hope for Danang as an up-and-coming foodie hotspot.

And we haven’t even mentioned 7 Bridges Brewing Co. yet, Danang’s only homegrown craft beer brewery.

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7 Bridges Brewing Co.

So where to eat and drink when you’re in Danang? Well, we’ve put together a list of places we recommend for anyone with a few days and nights to spare in one of Vietnam’s truly beautiful cities.

Our list is far from exhaustive (feel free to let us know about your favourites), but we’ve sampled them all recently in one way or another, and they’ve impressed us enough to make the cut here.

Waterfront Restaurant & Bar

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Waterfront Restaurant & Bar

Waterfront has one of the best restaurant locations in the city centre overlooking the Han River. It’s been open since 2010 and is without doubt one of the premier eating and drinking places in Danang.

At ground level you can walk straight in off the street and find a spot at the bar or at one of the many tables inside, while upstairs it’s much of a similar thing but offers both indoor and outdoor seating with elevated views across the river.

Without doubt one of the premier eating and drinking places in Danang

Expect to pay up to VND550,000 (approx. US$23.50) for mains like their beef tenderloin or grass-fed New Zealand lamb rack. The Vietnamese-style grilled Australian beef salad (pictured) is VND220,000 (approx. US$9.50).

Waterfront also has an extensive drinks menu that includes craft beer, wine, spirits, classic and signature cocktails, and live music at weekends. A beautiful establishment with dining that compares with the best Saigon and Hanoi has to offer.

Waterfront Restaurant & Bar is at 150 Bach Dang Street, Danang

 

Zen Club 

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Zen Club

Located on the top floor of Fusion Suites Danang Beach right on the water with panoramic views of the ocean and beachside “strip”, Zen Club offers breakfast (any time), daily afternoon tea and free-flow cocktails and beer for an extra US$20 (approx. VND470,000) per night for guests staying at the resort.

The food and the service is great, and coupled with the exclusivity of the Club, this place makes you feel just that little bit extra special. Plus, it’s nice to know there’s somewhere relaxing back at your hotel to chill after spending the day exploring Danang.

This place makes you feel just that little bit extra special

The Zen Club food menu is a mix of Vietnamese and Western dishes, from cajun chicken wings, chicken teriyaki tacos, burgers and beef tenderloin to sugarcane beef skewers, crispy seafood cha gio, vegetarian spring rolls and a vegan tamari noodle salad.

Sunset drinks include those classic holiday tipples like the Pina Colada, Mai Tai, Singapore Sling, Tequila Sunrise and even that cheeky 80s concoction, Sex On The Beach. Remember that?

For those wanting less bombastic or flamboyant sounding creations, Zen Club serves up Mojitos, Caipirinhas, Margaritas and G&Ts, along with a whole slew of non-alcoholic drinks.

Fusion Suites Danang Beach is at An Cu 5 Residential, Vo Nguyen Giap Street, Danang

 

Dirty Fingers

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Dirty Fingers

The fact that a place like Dirty Fingers (named as such because everything on the menu is eaten with your hands) exists in central Vietnam, speaks volumes of the leaps and bounds the culinary and entertainment scenes have taken here over the past few years. Think roadhouse slash machinery shed slash hoedown venue and you’ve just about got the feel of the place right there, except it comes without the rednecks! Yeehaw!

The only thing missing here is sawdust on the floor and a mechanical bull in the corner

Dirty Fingers is new on the scene and offers something unlike anything we’ve visited in Vietnam. It’s super spacious with tables out front and inside, along with seating at the huge bar that sits smack bang in the centre of the place. These folks make y’all feel downright at home.

There’s a stage for live music, which happens most nights of the week, and plenty of TVs to catch all the sporting action. There seems to be something on every night of the week. The only thing missing here is sawdust on the floor and a mechanical bull in the corner.

The menu is all about rolling your sleeves up and digging in with your hands – whatever you can eat with them (just about anything) is on the menu at great prices. Pig out on chicken wings, nachos, tacos, chips and dips, or go for something more substantial with a burger, steak sandwich or cajun pork sausage sandwich. For the big boys there are “Big Man” platters with wings, ribs and more ribs, and a mixed meat platter with just about every farm animal you can imagine featured.

Then all that can be washed down with local and imported beers, shots and cocktails – whatever way you roll.

Dirty Fingers is at 404 Vo Nguyen Giap Street, Danang

 

Burger Republic

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Burger Republic

There’s a lot of hype around burgers in Vietnam at the moment, especially in the country’s most vibrant city, Ho Chi Minh City, where burger options and quality have boomed along with the economy in recent years. It makes for an interesting correlation. Are burgers the catalyst for a better quality of life index?

Yet, for all the hype, things can easily backfire and only serve to greatly disappoint. Avid foodies on Instagram with just a passing interest in food and beverage trends in Vietnam will have noticed the hype in Danang dripping online over its burgers. It certainly caught our attention.

Time and again we were disappointed until we found Burger Republic

Alas, however, when we visited, it was then we came to the realisation that we too had fallen victim of all that hype. Time and again we were disappointed with the quality of burgers in Danang, until we found Burger Republic. We’re quite confident this is the best burger in town by a long shot.

A collaboration between a local and her French partner, Burger Republic is located away from the beach side of town, just a couple of blocks from Bach Dang Street on the river and minutes from Dragon Bridge.

The burgers are serious business here. They offer five kinds of patties, eight kinds of homemade sauces, five kinds of cheese and six different side dishes all homemade and fresh, served up in a quaint establishment that perhaps is best described as more of a cantina than a traditional burger cafe. There’s also a small open-air bar out back which is perfect for a sneaky drink away from others feeding their faces.

Burger Republic is at 33 Hoang Van Thu Street, Danang

 

7 Bridges Brewing Co.

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7 Bridges Brewing Co.

Danang’s only homegrown craft beer brewery, 7 Bridges Brewing Co. has grown from a 30-litre home garage pipe-dream into a fully-fledged brewing facility with city centre tap room and growing distribution across Vietnam in under two years.

7 Bridges is named after the number of bridges spanning the Han River that flows through the centre of Danang. As well as producing great beer, the foundations of the company have been built on a solid social and environmental platform. Their clever Farm to Foam, Foam to Farm concept utilises their own farm where waste products from the brewing process can be used to feed pigs and cattle, and as compost.

One of the few places in town with up-close and uninterrupted views of Dragon Bridge that won’t cost you a bomb

At their tap room by the river, there’s plenty of beer to keep drinkers happy with their regular mainstay beers like their Golden Ale (one of their first), but also rotating seasonal beers using ingredients from Vietnam and overseas. In the past, their Sakura Wit offering used flowers and leaves from a Japanese sakura tree, while their Sunset Weizen has fruity orange peel and coriander seed notes coming through. At the 2018 Asia Beer Championships, 7 Bridges earned a couple of gongs with their Imperial IPA winning gold and their Dragon Pale Ale earning silver, strong industry recognition that they are doing things right.

7 Bridges also has a cracking food menu, live music on weekends and special occasions, and boy, location, location, location! From their rooftop, it’s one of the few places in town with up-close and uninterrupted views of Dragon Bridge that won’t cost you a bomb. The perfect perch for when the fireworks are on, or of a Friday or Saturday evening when the dragon breathes his fire.

7 Bridges Brewing Co. is at 493 Tran Hung Dao Street, Danang

 

43 Factory

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43 Factory

You know a coffee culture is on the move when something like 43 Factory pops up in your neighbourhood. Located just a few blocks from the beach in an up-and-coming area for bars and restaurants in Danang, 43 Factory is a two-story, architecturally-designed cafe and coffee roaster.

Think modern municipal library or art space in a residential area to get an idea of the look and feel of the place

This large industrial-like building takes up a corner block (maybe even three!), standing out from the rest of its neighbours, like the proverbial sore thumb, but in a good way. Think modern municipal library or art space in a residential area to get an idea of the look and feel of the place.

Outside, punters can lounge at sunken concrete-moulded benches surrounded by a large water feature that skirts the building. Access to the building is gained across a “bridge” leading towards both entrances.

Inside, as you would expect with a building made of so much glass, it’s light and airy. There’s also a tree growing in the middle of the baristas’ workspace and that customers can sit under to chat or work online. Upstairs there’s more workspace and a barista training room.

Understandably there’s plenty of Vietnamese coffee on offer, but 43 Factory stands out with its Central and South American beans – Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras – as well as African varieties from Kenya, Congo and Ethiopia.

43 Factory is at 419 – 422 Ngo Thi Si Street, Danang

 

Why Roastery

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Why Roastery

Why Roastery is a chilled little cafe on the corner of a quiet street not too far from the beach. It’s a little tricky to find but well worth getting lost for. It’s the type of place serious coffee drinkers come for some peace and quiet and to catch up on some work away from the hustle. But it’s nothing like a co-working space where people sit on a coffee for hours and mooch off the internet. In fact, it’s just a nice place to be offline for a bit.

It’s a little tricky to find but well worth getting lost for

While 43 Factory (above) is big, bold and a place to be seen, Why Roastery is the opposite. It’s more of a hideaway with a much less ostentatious feel. Coffee snobs can come here but so can people who aren’t into their coffee as much. They’ll enjoy it because it’s “trendy” but without the pretentiousness that can unfortunately beset other cafes.

And the coffee? It’s very good and great value. A well-made latte here will set you back VND45,000. All-in-all, Why Roastery is totally recommended. It’s a great place to while away the stinging heat in the middle of the day during the hotter months while you plan your next move for the day – a motorbike ride along the coast, or a sneaky nap before the nighttime festivities begin, perhaps?

Why Roastery is at 64 Ung Van Khiem Street, Danang

 

Gold Star Coffee

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Gold Star Coffee

The aptly named Gold Star Coffee is top shelf for coffee and gets our vote as probably the best coffee in Danang, at least among the places we’ve tried. We mean no disrespect to the others, they make mighty fine cups of coffee too, it’s just that there’s so much damn good coffee getting brewed in this part of Vietnam, you need to be on your toes to be the best.

If Why Roastery and 43 Factory are for people who are serious about their coffee, then Gold Star takes it to the next level and is for people who live and breathe coffee.

It’s the perfect place for an early morning kickstart, serving up Lao and Central and South American varieties

Owned and operated by a young local with a passion for coffee from all around the world, Gold Star is an unassuming little place on the ground floor of a residence – blink and you’ll miss it. It’s the perfect place for an early morning kickstart, serving up Lao and Central and South American varieties. They do hot lattes and cappuccinos unlike anywhere else we’ve tried in Vietnam, and with their friendly staff, this is the place to go for a coffee. Enough said.

Gold Star Coffee is at 14 Ngo Thi Si Street, Danang

 

Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge

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Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge

Fat Fish Restaurant & Lounge is an impressive multi-story venue located right opposite the Han River that runs through the centre of the city. On the restaurant scene in Danang since 2015, Fat Fish follows a simple concept of using fresh, quality ingredients prepared with passion. That’s good enough for us because when you visit as many bars and restaurants as we do, we see far too many establishments trying too hard but ultimately struggling to get the basics right.

No need for dictionaries to understand the menu here!

When you take a look at their menu, you can tell these guys are serious about their concept — no need for dictionaries to understand the menu here! And, there’s the added bonus that prices make it easy on the wallet.

Appetisers include items like tomato soup, cold cuts, cheese, and flatbreads, while the mains menu includes, among other items, pan-seared duck breast, mahi mahi fillet, pork loin, chicken breast and beef striploin, all with simple, fresh sides that stay true to the owner’s concept.

Fat Fish also has signature pizzas – lamb sausage, pancetta and goat cheese, mahi mahi and shiitake mushrooms, parma ham and sundried tomatoes – and the classics like margarita, four cheese, seafood and vegetarian.

On-tap they have some of Vietnam’s finest craft beers and they serve up some of the city’s tastiest cocktails using local ingredients.

 Fat Fish is at 439 Tran Hung Dao Street, Danang

 

Luna Pub

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Luna Pub

Luna Pub nails it for just about everything – great pizza and pasta, service and venue which automatically makes it great value for money. You can’t help but get swept up in the vibe of this place when you walk in. In many respects, the space is similar to Dirty Fingers (featured above), like it’s in a large machinery shed that’s been repurposed and turned into a restaurant. Absolutely love it.

Luna Pub nails it for just about everything – great pizza and pasta, service and venue

The night we visited, there was a live band which added to the already awesome vibe at the packed tables. On top of that, Luna Pub is in a great location near the centre of town not far from the river, the service is fast and efficient with no confusion over bills and they offer an extensive menu of pizzas, pastas and everything else you would expect from an Italian restaurant.

The only warning we have for you about this place is their metre-long shot trays. Look out for them, they’re killers!

Luna Pub is at 9A Tran Phu Street, Danang

 

The Local Market

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An assortment of snails known as oc from Con Market

For some of the best local street food, we recommend you hit up Con Market at 269 Ong Ich Khiem Street, Danang

 

— All photos by Mike Palumbo. You can follow Mike on Instagram at @palumbo_photo

6 comments on “Rising Dragon

  1. Check out Espresso Station coffee. Tucked away down an alley near the market on Tran Phu it’s a little gem. Cracking coffee carefully prepared by well-trained young baristas. Funky decor,

  2. Pingback: Zen Club - The Bureau

  3. Pingback: Waterfront Restaurant & Bar - The Bureau

  4. Pingback: Dirty Fingers - The Bureau

  5. Pingback: Gold Star Coffee - The Bureau

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